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January 23, 2013

High expectations surround experienced L’Anse Creuse North boys basketball team

By Christian Davis
C & G Staff Writer

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High expectations surround experienced L’Anse Creuse North boys basketball team
Macomb L’Anse Creuse North’s Robert Hopkins rises to the hoop in a game earlier this season. The Crusaders return nine players and their entire starting lineup from last season’s squad, which lost in the state semifinals.

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Last season, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North boys basketball proved to be top of the class in the Macomb Area Conference and nearly the entire state.

The Crusaders won the MAC Red before losing in a Division 1 state semifinal to eventual champion Saginaw High.

With nine players back, including all five starters, expectations are high, and coach Jay Seletsky wants his team to embrace them.

“The difference between this year and last year is that we don’t ignore it. At the beginning of the year, we talked a lot about … the expectations that we needed to have to get back there. We haven’t ignored the fact that getting back to Breslin (the site of the semifinals and championship) is a goal of ours,” he said.

Seletsky’s favorite word to use in those early-season meetings was “opportunity.”

“I told them, ‘You’re only going to let this mount to pressure if you succumb to that.’ The word I substitute for pressure is opportunity. Not a lot of schools have the opportunity that we have with five returning starters and our top nine guys. That’s opportunity,” he said. “That’s kind of where we made the transformation of not worrying what other people say we should do, but what type of opportunity do we have in front of us.

“They’ve bought into it, and we’ve really gotten better in the sense of learning from mistakes and moving forward.”

At press time, North was 8-1 overall and 3-0 in the Red, finding success through its defense, which was its calling card last season.

The Crusaders are allowing 43.6 points per game, which is the second lowest in all of the MAC. They’re scoring 56.1 points per contest.

“That’s how it all started last year,” senior Tyler Conklin said. “Offense comes with defense. So if we play good defense, we’ll score. Defense is a mindset. If you say you can stop someone, you can stop someone.”

Seletsky also credited assistant coach Steve Conger for working with players on their defensive skills and helping them take pride in it.

Another factor in their staunchness is their size. The Crusaders start five players who are all 6 foot 3 or taller.

North also has talent. Conklin is the reigning Red MVP. David Bercel-Dicker, John Allen, Robert Hopkins, Evan Coulter, Ramone Griffin, Sean Koski, Aaron Schienke and Frank Devos join him as returning lettermen. 

“We’re getting better and better every game,” Conklin said. “We’re not playing our best basketball yet, but that’s what practice is for. At the end of the season, it’ll be tough. Everyone will be fighting for minutes, and coach will have a hard decision.”

Seletsky added that his guys haven’t taken last season’s success for granted or let it lead to complacency.

“I think it’s the hunger that keeps them going, but they also know, you’re not getting far in the state tournament if you’re not trying to continue to improve,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Christian Davis at cdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1062. Twitter Follow Christian on Twitter.